We are a British male couple who have cruised 15 times, 3 times previously with Royal, 6 with Celebrity and 6 wth P&O (British cruise line). Our cruises are usually 13/14 nighters due to the hassle of winding down our business and as we mainly cruise from the UK it takes a day or two to actually get somewhere. We are Diamond with Royal thanks to our Celebrity loyalty which Royal match up to the Diamond level.
We had thoroughly enjoyed our Anthem cruise 18 months ago but had an issue which resulted in a future cruise credit being given to us that had to be used on a cruise before April 17 and as the ex- UK Royal cruises don't get started till late April this made us look elsewhere in the world. Having experienced the Voyager, Freedom and Quantum classes our obvious next choice was an Oasis class ship. We wanted to fly from from Manchester, UK and the only Florida airport we can fly direct to from Manchester is Orlando which made Oasis an ideal choice. Given the 9 hour flight time we booked back to back cruises which covered the Western Caribbean first then the Eastern Caribbean in order to make our journey truly worthwhile. We have visited all ports (except Nassau) before so this wasn't going to be an intensive cruise for us as we are not beach people and enjoy being onboard (especially when everyone else has disembarked at a port). So no real port info to follow, sorry.
We flew with Virgin Atlantic direct from Manchester and had reserved our economy seats on the front row of the economy section in the bubble of this Boing 747. I had researched this a lot and the bubble is split between economy and premium economy with a 10 feet area in front of the economy section so there was endless leg space. It was much quieter than the downstairs main area of the plane and service was quick and unobtrusive. The inflight entertainment is endless albeit the touchscreen is a bit cumbersome.
We landed in Orlando mid afternoon and (after negotiating the always officious US Immigration and Customs Officers) picked up our Alamo one way rental car to drive ourselves on the 1 hour drive east to Port Canaveral, $1 notes in hand for the two tolls. We had booked a Premium car with Alamo and checked in online so on arriving at the Alamo desk were immediately directed to the car lot and told to choose any Premium or SUV from the lot. We were like kids at a sweet shop but went with a suitably monster sized (by UK standards) Nissan SUV. We then drove to the exit only to be held for 10 mins at the barrier while they sorted out the paperwork......so much for the online check in.
We stayed in the Residence Inn by Marriott, one of the closest hotels to the port. We got a good rate since we booked 9 months ahead. We had a king studio. Have to say we were a little disappointed with our room. Being on the ground floor is was dark and a bit dated. However it was clean and only for the one night. The breakfast was nice but it's the location that sold it to us. We walked down to Preacher Bar since it was the closest bar and came recommended on Tripadvisor and we shared a table with two nice local couples. I had the shrimp which was superb but there was nothing at all for my OH that was vegetarian suitable.
The next morning we drove the very short journey to the Alamo drop off which along with Enterprise is the nearest to the Royal Caribbean terminal. We had thought about dropping the cases, returning the car to Alamo and walking with our hand luggage to the terminal however the terminal was so close we just returned the car and walked with all our cases, which had wheels, and was an easy walk. A guy in a car stopped and offered us a lift as he was picking someone up from the terminal shortly but by the time we had loaded and unloaded our luggage into and out of his car we would have been there. A nice offer though.
We went from arriving at the terminal to sitting in the diamond waiting pen after check in within 10 minutes. Boarding started at 11.15 and we were onboard not much afterwards. The boarding area on Oasis brings you straight onto the Royal Promenade opposite the fountains under the rising tide bar and it was great to finally see it.
There was a drinks desk right by us when we boarded. We had received free Select drinks packages when booking (now discontinued) and knew I could upgrade to the Deluxe package for $10 plus 18% per day which was a no brainer. My OH downgraded! Why, because he doesn't drink alcohol and the lesser Royal Replenish package included everything he might want that was included in the Select package plus premium sparkling water which is his drink of choice with dinner.
We did go straight to the windjammer for lunch being one of the first onboard. This was one of only 2 visits to the windjammer in our 14 nights. I know there are many other options for free food on the ship but I have to get it out there.......the windjammer is way too small and poorly designed for a ship of this size. It's about half the size of a Freedom class windjammer but with twice the number of people onboard. When we left after lunch there were queues and people were being counted in and out. So whilst Oasis does have those other free venues the issue here is a) people like the choice at a buffet and b) those other venues don't have the choice or capacity to pick up the slack of the overflow from the windjammer. It's was a minor issue for us though as we did make use of the other places to eat onboard to avoid the wait at windjammer.
We booked a boardwalk balcony on deck 12. I moved us twice from when we booked the cabin to the actual trip in order to edge us closer to the Aquatheatre and the aft of the ship and ended up in 12319. It was a good choice. We didn't want deck 14 in case of noise from the deck above. We've usually had balconies but traditionally not spent much time on them so this gave us a cabin with a balcony, lots to look at down below and at the Aquatheatre to the aft and gave us somewhere to dry our swimwear or gym gear. It also didn't get very windy at all so no concern about losing clothing over the balcony rail. I will say that it is noisy, both from the basketball court above and boardwalk below but we expected it so it didn't bother us. It's not a tranquil place to sit out and with the door closed you can still hear the music, basketball and kids noise. The expected lack of privacy didn't bother us either as the curtains and voiles stopped direct viewing into the opposite cabins. Our cabin attendant was excellent. The cabin was spotless and really well maintained for an 8 year old ship. Next time on an Oasis Class ship I think we will go for another inward looking balcony, but in Central Park, just not above the Park Cafe.
We had booked the First Night Done Right offer which equated to $15 on our cruise planner. We got a call around 1.30pm, after we had accessed our cabin, asking where we would like to dine and we said we wanted to check out the menus first so headed to the Royal Promenade and a desk that was set up for restaurant bookings. We checked the menus and decided on a Chops booking. As we were back to back we had booked the same offer for the first night of our second leg and we chose Chops again for that night. Chops was excellent. My OH is a vegetarian but eats fish and the Branzino in Chops plus the huge range of sides was well received. I had the large Fillet Mignon both times and loved it. We sat on the covered Patio in Central Park the first night and couldn't believe we were on a cruise ship. WOW. The deal was excellent and in fact we were a little embarrassed about what we had paid compared to the actual menu price.
We had booked My Time Dining for all other nights and I had reserved online a 7.30 dining time. At the American Icon lower level of the dining room, there are two lines, one for reservations and one for those without and generally the line for those with reservations was shorter and moved quicker. Our experience overall was excellent. Seated pretty quickly and the menu choices were excellent. There wasn't any dish we didn't like and seasoning, portion size and presentation was pretty good all round. However, my OH is a vegetarian and that limits things somewhat especially as Royal use non vegetarian cheese in their vegetarian dishes (contains animal rennet from a calves stomach). We had one off night. There was only one entree marked as vegetarian and it had Parmesan in it. My OH asked if there was anything else available and the waiter said yes the dish with the V symbol. My OH pointed out again this had non vegetarian cheese in it and the waiter said ' I will leave it with you to decide then'. It wasn't helpful. A head waiter appeared and brought some vegan dishes which were bland, and he presented the menu for the next night. My OH said he would have the fish and the head waiter said he was told by the waiter he was a vegan. Not quite the same thing.
However when we came to the restaurant the next night I specifically asked not to be in that waiters' section and we were seated in Ajay's section. After that one night we knew we needed to be seated in his section every evening. He went out of his way to ensure my OH had a proper choice and once he learned my OH liked asparagus there was a nightly order of asparagus with hollandaise sauce always on hand as an extra appetiser. We spoke to the Maitre' D on exiting and she put a note on the system for us to be sat in Ajays section. The next night we arrived for our 7.30 reservation and were asked to wait a while for a table in Ajays' section. This went on for nearly an hour with us being given a run down of the people at our table " they've just finished their Entree", "they've just got the dessert menu" until I approached the Maitre'D again and she pretty much said the wait was our fault for asking for Ajay. I did ask why she had offered to put a note on our reservation stating we wanted Ajays' section if this didn't actually mean anything. My OH walked into the restaurant and to Ajays section and could see two tables for two that were set up and free. The restaurant manager saw him coming out and enquired about the difficulty and after my OH gave him a very brief summary he said we would get us a table with Ajay at 7.30 every evening, and that's what happened. A one night glitch but at least we ended up with a server that went out of his way to ensure my OH could have a choice and was superbly professional and totally friendly.
We always asked for a table for two but always chatted to our neighbouring tables and met some really nice people (apart from one night when our 'good evening' comment was met with total ignorance and 90 mins of being blanked. How can you sit for 90 minutes with a couple of people literally a foot to your side and not at least acknowledge their existence?) and really enjoyed the conversation. It was great to meet people from across the US and we found them so easy to get on with and our English accents obviously led to some curiosity. In fact I would add this was a very friendly cruise. We didn't really do desserts (I much prefer a chocolate Martini as my desert).
Breakfasts were a mix. We ate at the free breakfast at Johnny Rockets around 4 times over the two weeks and really enjoyed the food and service. It's a little annoying that there is a 'wait to be seated' sign but some just arrive and take a table. As we had a Boardwalk Balcony we got to eat once per week free for lunch or dinner at Johnny Rockets and did so twice. It was ok, nothing spectacular and didn't they used to do dancing during meals? The onion rings were excellent though and my OH liked the BOGOF malt shakes that Diamond guests get as a perk.
We loved Park Cafe. Eating breakfast sat out in Central Park was amazing and hassle free. I did try the beef sandwich from here one day and it was lovely. Other than that we used the Solarium Bistro for breakfast. It has a much more limited amount of choices compared to the Windjammer but a more pleasant experience.
We usually wear Tuxs for formal nights but having read about the more mixed attire that Royal's Caribbean sailings attract we dropped those to lighten our luggage requirements and went with chinos and smart shirts which probably hit the middle note between the ultra casual and very smart formal wear that was seen on formal nights. Have to say I've never seen bigger queues for the official photographers than on this ship and many still loved to dress up and be photographed.
The bars were much quieter than we expected. It seems most US passengers don't get a drinks package as a perk plus the large number of families means the bars were pretty light on people. Our favourites were the Champagne Bar and the Rising Tide bar for cocktails. Whilst mentioning bars I have to talk about one point. We have a drinks package, we order a drink, they serve the drink and present you with a zero cost slip to sign which has a section for an extra tip. Aarrgghh. The drinks package includes a tip and if we get great service and get to know a bartender we will tip cash. But these slips are just an attempt to grab even more tips. Brits generally tip 10% so if the drinks package includes 18% tips then for us that's more than sufficient so being presented with a slip to sign and asked to include extra gratuity for exceptional service is an irritation. We personally tipped cash around $200 this cruise but never added a tip to the slips they presented to us. A few times I didn't sign the slips to be told I had to sign and I still refused. Given unsigned slips go straight into the bin this ridiculous need to sign the slips is simply a con and unnecessary if your drink is covered by your package, and they are hoping that customers are guilted into adding an extra tip. What about all that paper waste? We also found out that any tips given in this way are pooled shipwide which I'm sure many don't appreciate. This extra tipping doesn't happen on ex UK cruises with Royal and doesn't happen on Celebrity. Ok rant over.
Wine service in the main dining room was a bit sporadic. With no sommeliers it's down to the waiters to ask about wine requirements. Some nights neither would ask so we would prompt them, some nights both asked. Anyway I like a Marlborough and a they have a Kim Crawford on the menu however in the main dining room it was priced at $17 but I had it in Chops the first night where it was $13, thereby within my drinks package. I checked with a food and beverage manager who checked the system and said it should be $13 everywhere. So that was my wine of choice with dinner. Note to Royal, your menus are wrong.
We had booked our entertainment in advance on the cruise planner, Cats, Come Fly With Me, the ice show and the Aquashow, once each over the two weeks and the headliner and adult comedy show once each of the two weeks. The booking system works fine however we did chop and change a bit on a couple of shows and this worked out fine for us. The Adult Comedy Show was the hardest to get into if you hadn't reserved and we heard a few moans but it does only hold 120 people. We really enjoyed both comedy shows, 2 comedians at each show, and the venue is perfect for this. We had both seen Cats before in Londons' West End. It's never been our favourite musical but we gave it a go and grabbed seats a few rows from the front. It was the full production, extremely professional and exactly as we remembered from London. However we both agreed it's not the right choice for a cruise ship. It doesn't really have much of a story and goes off at tangents at times and quite a few left before, or didn't return after, the interval. However it was very well received by those stalwarts who stayed. I would recommend going to a matinee performance as we did since I wouldn't want to loose a full evening on board for this plus sit close to the stage or you won't really appreciate the make up or costumes.
The Aquashow was excellent. We went on our very first night and we're suitably impressed. They had to cut if off before the very high dives due to the ships movement but we did get to see the end section courtesy of our Boardwalk Balcony view later in the cruise.
The Frozen In Time Ice Show was also superb. Great costumes and great ice skating wrapped together with a loose Hans Christian Anderson theme. The Headliner act the first week were The Edge Effect. A 5 piece a capella group who were probably the best group we've ever seen on a cruise ship. We didn't go to the headliner on the second week as it didn't sound our cup of tea.
As well as the main entertainment shows there always seemed to be something happening around the ship. Parades, pop up dance lessons, musical segments in the Royal Promenade, Dreamworks appearances etc and Royal really do well packing their cruise with entertainment and if we were on for just one week I could see how you could disembark feeling a bit tired!
We had pretty good service all round. Better inside the ship than outside. Poolside service was sporadic and I got a feeling that as we were not adding more tips to the bar slips a repeat visit from a poolside attendant never happened. Visiting a pool deck bar was often a slow process and a few of those guys looked miserable on occasion. My OH always made a point that if he was greeted with a barman just barking 'yes?' his response would always be 'Im fine thank you and how are you?' Tony the 'mixologist' in the Champagne Bar stood out as did the two ladies serving in the rising tide bar. As said, once we found 'Ajay' in the main dining room we couldn't have wished for a better server and our cabin steward was excellent. A point worth making is he didn't repeat the same towel animals each week but made different ones for a our second week.
As we were on a back to back, on the changeover day we gathered in Scooner Bar and were escorted off the ship and back through immigration to then be offered a free lunch in Giovannis for all the consecutive cruisers, a nice touch.
Overall we had a great two weeks. Oasis is a brilliantly impressive ship. So well designed and swallows its 6000 passengers superbly. Even disembarking and embarking at port stops was easy and hassle free which surprised us given the numbers. Yes it's a big ship but it never felt too big to us and it offers so much choice of activities and venues that it's pretty hard to fault. It has many very impressive aspects and I can see why there are soon to be four ships in this class. It's probably my favourite ship now having stole that award from Celebrity Eclipse. It really offers something for all ages and the mix of passengers works very well.
We had a few glitches (that I may have over described, sorry) but nothing that spoilt our enjoyment of this beautiful cruise ship.
We will return to an Oasis class ship but probably another ship next time (despite the convenience of direct flights to join Oasis) as the entertainment is static on each ship we would want to experience other options next time round. Harmony or Symphony awaits....
Great location to view the Aquatheatre. Some noise during the day from kids noise and music